Audrey Pulvar: the Difficult Relationship between Politicians and Journalists

In an important announcement made last week, Audrey Pulvar, renowned journalist and girlfriend of Arnaud Montebourg, was named editorial director of the magazine Les Inrockuptibles. This is not the first time that the journalist has been at the heart of a controversy.

Pulvar’s boyfriend, Montebourg, previously a lively member of the PS, is now minister of productive recovery. Since the official beginning of their relationship, he has been met with doubts about the honesty of her work and the multiple dismissals that have been demanded by her bosses.

Three years ago, as a journalist on the news channel I>télé, she had to renounce all political meetings. This year, as anchorwoman of the popular morning program on France Inter, she was asked to give up her interviews more than a year before she was to leave the radio station after the nomination of her Montebourg to government. Ever since, her broadcast was suspended on public radio just as her place as columnist was in the program On n’est pas couché on France 2.

If her dismissal from the program on France 2 seems difficult to justify due to her politically engaged role, her dismissal from France Inter is more understandable. By hosting a news program, she does not only represent herself, but an entire editorial staff.

Although her professional integrity is not being questioned, suspicions and accusations in case of publication of controversial news or interviews could have changed the perceived impartiality of journalists who worked with her. Audrey Pulvar did not hesitate to show herself in public at political events, like the night of the Primary of the PS, where Arnaud Montebourg finished in third place, or on a balcony on Solférino the night of the victory of François Hollande.

The same problem now presents itself to The Inrockuptibles. Originally started as a cultural magazine, it was created by music lovers in the 1980s. It has evolved since then into a more general, weekly publication that acquired a political department three years ago. Historically left leaning but independent, The Inrocks, as they are nicknamed, have since published several stories and reports containing information about Arnaud Montebourg.

Of course, Audrey Pulvar will not censor future articles. “You cannot reproach me in my career for having been the voice of my master, and besides, I do not have a master,” she said loudly and clearly.  But once again, doubt pervades the handling of news by the magazine. It is for that reason that the director of the political section and featured columnist, Thomas Legrand, announced his resignation this week. “Inevitably, she will have information: if she discloses it, she betrays her companion. If she does not, she betrays her newspaper and her position as a journalist. For me, it was impossible to stay,” he explained.

If journalists do not want to accuse their new colleague of having bad intentions, mild discomfort seems inevitable. Audrey Pulvar remains independent and free. She does not share—and will not share—all of Montebourg’s opinions. The problem resides more in the impression given to the public. An image of allies that fuels constant criticism in the media could eventually damage, even wrongly, the credibility of an editor.

One could assert that this problem, often concerning female journalists and male politicians, always leads to the woman losing her job. Why would it not be Arnaud Montebourg who leaves politics to let Audrey Pulvar work without the suspicion or partial commitment that weigh on her choices and the newspaper she represents?

The appointment of Audrey Pulvar as head of The Inrocks brings to light more wide-reaching concerns. Mathieu Pigasse, owner of the magazine as well as Le Monde and the French branch of the Huffington Post website, is trying once again to ignore all of these issues. Earlier this year he put Anne Sinclair, wife of Dominique Strauss Khan, at the head of the Huffington Post.

More generally, these instances are representative of the ties between politics and journalism in France. These two groups of people are often trained in the same schools, and are often friends or lovers from being in such close contact. Is it more important to remain independent and objective, or to maintain reasonable proximity to obtain access to exclusive news?

This conflict of interest remains a current issue because political journalists and politicians are often in the same environment and social spaces. It is not uncommon to see journalists spending their vacations with politicians, or journalists becoming advisors to a politician they wrote about in the past. Béatrice Schönberg, anchorwoman of evening news of France 2 and wife of Jean Louis Borloo, a former center-right minister, was in a similar situation to Pulvar. Pulvar or Schönberg are symbols of normal, daily relationships, even if they seem problematic, because it is easier for the media to criticize a couple.

For Jean Marie Charon, a media sociologist, the recurring debate in recent years on the relationships between politicians and journalists illustrates a paradigm shift in France. In an interview with Rue89, he said, “I think the models that have shaped journalism are changing. While political engagement was once normal, even valued, we are getting closer today to an Anglo-Saxon or North American model, which avoids any conflict of interest, direct or indirect.”

Whether positive or negative for French journalism, this evolution is a reality. In 1992, the president François Mitterand was interviewed by two journalists who were also wives of two of his ministers, Anne Sinclair and Christine Ockrent. At the time, this did not shock anyone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: